STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics) – Mike Leach has assembled his first coaching staff in Starkville as Mississippi State’s head football coach, it was announced Tuesday.
Leach, a two-time National Coach of the Year and an established, dynamic playcaller, will coordinate the offense and coach quarterbacks. The offensive staff includes:
- Eric Mele – Running Backs
- Mason Miller – Offensive Line
- Dave Nichol – Inside Receivers
- Steve Spurrier Jr. – Outside Receivers
Zach Arnett, a rising star in college football’s coaching ranks who served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at San Diego State for the past two seasons (2018-19), was announced as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator/linebackers coach on Jan. 22. In addition to Arnett, the defensive staff includes:
- Tony Hughes – Associate Head Coach/Nickelbacks
- Matt Brock – Special Teams Coordinator/Outside Linebackers
- Darcel McBath – Cornerbacks
- Jeff Phelps – Defensive Line
- Jason Washington – Safeties
THE ERIC MELE FILE
Position: Assistant Coach (Running Backs)
Hometown: Bridgewater, N.J.
Education: William Paterson, 2002 (Bachelor’s); American Military, 2007 (Master’s)
Children: Samantha, Jordan, Taylor, Madison
Birthday: Nov. 13, 1978
MELE ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“I am honored to arrive here in Starkville with Coach Leach. I’m looking forward to developing an #AllGas mentality with the Mississippi State running backs. My family and I are extremely excited and grateful for this tremendous opportunity. Hail State.”
Mele (me-lee) spent the past five seasons at Washington State, including the 2018 and 2019 seasons as running backs coach.
Prior to that he served as the Cougars’ special teams coordinator from 2015-17. He was promoted to the full-time special teams coach in February 2015, after serving in the same role on an interim basis the final two months of the 2014 campaign. Mele spent his first two and a half seasons at Washington State in an offensive quality control position, working with film breakdown and assisting with the development of quarterbacks.
Mele’s 2019 running backs unit featured All-Pac-12 honorable mention Max Borghi, who led the Cougars and ranked third in the conference in total yards from scrimmage with 1,414. His 16 touchdowns from scrimmage were the second-most in the Pac-12, while his 86 receptions led the nation among running backs.
In 2018, Mele’s running backs were highlighted by a couple dynamic playmakers in All-Pac-12 honorable mention James Williams and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honorable mention Borghi. Washington State running backs combined to lead all Pac-12 running back groups with 145 receptions and tallied the second-most total touchdowns (28). Williams led the FBS among running backs with 83 catches, and Borghi scored 12 total touchdowns, tying the Washington State single-season record for total TDs by a freshman.
Mele mentored All-Pac-12 Second Team kicker Erik Powell in 2017. Powell finished his Washington State career third on the school’s all-time points kicking list. He earned Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week three times during the season and was also a Lou Groza Award semifinalist. Powell concluded his career with a school record 164 career PAT and third in Cougar history for field goals made and field goal percentage. Under Mele, Washington State’s special teams produced the sixth-ranked punt coverage team in the FBS and didn’t allow a special teams touchdown for the first time since 2005.
In 2016, Washington State produced impressive special teams numbers and reached multiple milestones under Mele. The Cougars recorded their first kick return for a TD since 2003 and first punt return for a score since 2005 (first time to record both in the same season since 1968). The Cougars scored twice on special teams in a victory against Idaho, returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown and later scoring after recovering a fumble during a kickoff. In Pac-12 play, Mele’s group was the top-ranked punt return unit (18.8 yards-per-return) and second in kick return (23.0 yards-per-return). The punt return unit finished ninth in the country after averaging 13.5 yards-per-return.
Prior to Washington State, Mele spent five seasons as the special teams coordinator/running backs coach at Wingate University. During his time at Wingate, Mele helped guide the Bulldogs to a 36-19 record highlighted by a second-appearance in the 2010 NCAA Division II playoffs.
Prior to Wingate, Mele spent the 2006 season as the wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator at Saint Peter’s College (N.J.) where the school finished eighth in the FCS in completions. He worked the 2005 season as the co-defensive coordinator/special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach at Marist High School (N.J.), helping it to the program’s first playoff berth in 12 seasons. Mele also worked two seasons as the special teams coordinator/defensive backs coach at William Paterson University (N.J.).
Mele was a three-year starter at strong safety and outside linebacker at William Paterson, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice in 2002. He earned his master’s degree in sports management from the American Military University in 2007.
He and his wife, Melissa, have four daughters, Samantha, Jordan, Taylor and Madison.
MELE’S COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Running Backs)
2018-19: Washington State (Running Backs)
2015-17: Washington State (Special Teams)
2014: Washington State (Interim Special Teams)
2012-14: Washington State (Offensive Quality Control)
2007-11: Wingate [N.C.] (Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs)
2006: Saint Peter’s College [N.J.] (Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers)
2003-04: William Paterson [N.J.] (Special Teams Coordinator/Defensive Backs)
THE MASON MILLER FILE
Position: Assistant Coach (Offensive Line)
Hometown: Marietta, Ga.
Education: Valdosta State, 1999 (Bachelor’s)
Children: Madison, Mallory
Birthday: July 23, 1975
MILLER ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“As a Georgia native, I’m happy to be in the SEC and back in the South. I’m grateful for this opportunity to be a part of Coach Leach’s staff and join the Mississippi State family. I’m excited to get to work with our players and staff.”
Miller comes to Starkville after two seasons at Washington State as the offensive line coach. No stranger to the Air Raid system, Miller has spent the majority of his career coaching in that style of offense, working with both Leach and Hal Mumme, two of the Air Raid’s architects.
Miller, who has coached at all three levels of the NCAA, has been a key part in establishing lethal offenses wherever he goes. With stops at Southeastern Louisiana, New Mexico State, McMurry and Tarleton State, Miller’s offenses have set a bevy of school records and ranked in the top five in the nation in multiple offensive categories.
Miller’s offensive line unit allowed the fewest sacks in the Pac-12 during each of his two seasons at Washington State. Under Miller’s guidance in 2019, sophomore offensive tackle Abe Lucas earned All-Pac-12 second team honors and finished as the third-highest graded offensive lineman in the conference at 84.5 according to Pro Football Focus. Offensive guard Josh Watson also earned postseason honors as an All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
Miller’s unit protected college football’s top passing attack in consecutive seasons as the Cougars led the nation in passing offense, averaging 437.2 yards per game. Quarterback Anthony Gordon averaged an FBS-best 429.2 passing yards per game in 2019 after Gardner Minshew II was tops nationally in 2018 with an average of 367.6 passing yards per game. The Cougars allowed only 20 sacks in 2019 and just 13 in 2018.
In his first season with Cougars, Miller’s group developed into one of the nation’s best offensive lines and was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s best offensive line. In addition, three of his players earned All-Pac-12 honors. Left tackle Andre Dillard led the way earning All-Pac-12 first-team honors, was later named to the All-America second team by SI.com, was rated the top pass-blocking tackle in the country by PFF and was a first-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2019 NFL Draft. Dillard became the highest drafted Cougar offensive lineman in program history. Right tackle Lucas was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and later earned Freshman All-America honors by USA Today and The Athletic, while center Frederick Mauigoa earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
Prior to his time with the Cougars, Miller spent one year as Nevada’s offensive line coach under first-year coach Jay Norvell.
During Miller’s time at Tarleton State (2014-16), he engineered the program’s high powered offense into one of the nation’s best. In 2014, Tarleton State ranked third nationally in total offense, averaging 534 yards per game and put up 43 points per game. The same continued in 2015 with one of the highest powered offenses in the country, averaging nearly 40 points per game.
Prior to Tarleton State, Miller served as the head coach at McMurry for the 2013 season. While leading the War Hawks, the offense set school records in multiple categories including total yards (5,775), yards per game (523.1) and most points scored (424). Before his promotion to head coach, Miller was an assistant coach for the War Hawks for four seasons (2009-12). He had been an integral part of three consecutive winning seasons at McMurry, something that had happened just six other times in the university’s 87-year football history. In his four seasons as an assistant coach, the War Hawks averaged 416.0 yards per game of total offense with more than 346.0 passing yards per game. Miller began as the War Hawks’ assistant head coach and offensive line coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator after the departure of Matt Mumme following the 2010 season. Miller also served as McMurry’s recruiting coordinator.
The 2012 campaign, which was McMurry’s first at the NCAA Division II level, saw the War Hawk offense average more than 433.0 yards per game in total offense and 367.0 yards per game via the passing game. Then-quarterback Jake Mullin became just the 59th player in NCAA history – at any level – to pass for both 10,000 yards and 100 touchdowns in a career, leading the team to its first bowl appearance, and win, in 63 years.
In 2011, Miller’s first as offensive coordinator, he orchestrated an offense that ranked 18th in the nation and second in the American Southwest Conference in scoring offense at 37.7 points per game. Eight of his 2011 players were named to the All-ASC team on offense. McMurry set the NCAA Division III single game total offense record with 863 yards against Texas Lutheran. In 2010, Miller’s offensive line paved the way for the second-best passing offense in both the ASC and NCAA Division III.
Miller played running back at Valdosta State for two seasons (1994-95) under Leach, who was offensive coordinator at the time. Miller was a member of the NCAA Division II team that made the national playoffs for the first time in school history. He stayed on at Valdosta State as a student assistant after suffering a career-ending knee injury. Miller was a part of the staff that led VSU to a 1996 Gulf South Conference Championship.
Following a two-year stint coaching Valwood High School in Valdosta, Georgia, Miller returned to the collegiate ranks at Washington and Lee University, serving as the wide receivers coach. He then reunited with his old college football coach and helped Hal Mumme start the Southeastern Louisiana University football program from scratch. Miller coached the running backs in 2003 and moved to coach the offensive line in 2004 and helped SLU lead the nation in total offense.
Mumme took Miller with him to New Mexico State in Las Cruces, New Mexico, from 2005-08. Miller worked with the Aggies’ offensive line all four years and an offense that ranked third in the nation in total offense. He coached four all-conference linemen at NMSU including Nick Cole, who played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles. Miller was promoted to assistant head coach prior to the 2008 season with the Aggies.
Miller graduated from Valdosta State in Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1999. He and his wife, Megan, have two daughters, Madison and Mallory.
MILLER’S COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Offensive Line)
2018-19: Washington State (Offensive Line)
2017: Nevada (Offensive Line)
2014-16: Tarleton State (Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator)
2013: McMurry (Head Coach)
2009-12: McMurry (Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line)
2007-08: New Mexico State (Associate Head Coach)
2005-06: New Mexico State (Offensive Line)
2004: Southeastern Louisiana (Offensive Line)
2003: Southeastern Louisiana (Running Backs)
2000: Washington and Lee (Wide Receivers)
1998-99: Valwood High School (Offensive Coordinator)
THE DAVE NICHOL FILE
Position: Assistant Coach (Inside Receivers)
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Education: Texas Tech, 1999 (B.S. in exercise sport sciences), 2002 (M.S. in interdisciplinary studies)
Birthday: Oct. 5, 1976
NICHOL ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“I’m thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Coach Leach’s staff and a member of the Mississippi State football program. I can’t wait to get to work with the rest of the staff, and I’m looking forward to coaching and developing our players.”
Nichol joins the Bulldogs as inside receivers coach after spending four seasons on Washington State’s staff. Nichol has ties to Mississippi with his mother being from Louisville.
He is no stranger to a Mike Leach-coached team, having spent three seasons (2003-05) as an offensive line assistant at Texas Tech under Leach. Prior to Washington State, Nichol served as the offensive coordinator at East Carolina in 2015.
Following the 2015 season, Nichol was named the Cougars’ outside receivers coach, reuniting with Leach. At the start of 2017 preseason camp Nichol moved from coaching outside receivers to working with the inside receivers.
Most recently, under the guidance of Nichol, Brandon Arconado led the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game at 100.8 in 2019. He caught 78 passes for 1,109 yards and seven touchdowns and tied for the conference lead in receptions that resulted in a first down with 58. Renard Bell and Travell Harris also had solid seasons under Nichol’s mentorship. Bell caught 53 passes for 562 yards and six touchdowns, while Harris logged 47 receptions for 536 yards and five scores.
In 2018, Washington State’s inside receivers combined for 124 receptions for 1,361 yards and eight touchdowns. Nichol coached four players who recorded 20 or more receptions, including Jamire Calvin who led the way with 42 catches for 497 yards. Bell paced the group with five touchdown receptions. Redshirt-freshman Harris caught 27 passes in his first season seeing game action and earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a kick returner after averaging a Pac-12 best 27.6 yards-per-return, sixth-best in the FBS.
The Cougars’ inside receivers combined for 135 receptions, 1,444 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. Junior Kyle Sweet was the only upperclassman. Redshirt-freshman Bell was a Pac-12 All-Freshman first team selection while Calvin earned second-team accolades as a true freshman.
Nichol’s 2016 outside receivers unit combined for 203 receptions for 2,032 yards and 21 scores and was led by senior Gabe Marks, who repeated as an All-Pac-12 first team performer. Marks also became the Pac-12 career leader in receptions, finishing with 316 catches and 37 touchdowns – second all-time in conference history.
Nichol has coached on staffs that have reached 12 bowl games since 2000. In 2015 he was elevated to East Carolina’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after serving the previous three seasons as the Pirates’ outside receivers coach.
While at ECU, Nichol played a vital role in guiding an offense that finished third nationally in passing and fifth in total offense during the 2014 season. ECU’s offense established successive single-season school records for passing yards and total offense, and combined he was part of 70 individual or team single-game, single-season and career offensive standards that were tied or set from 2012-14.
Prior to East Carolina, Nichol spent five seasons on Arizona’s staff. He began as a graduate assistant in 2007, working with the offensive line. He was promoted to outside receivers coach after one season and added the insider receivers the following year. With Nichol on staff, the Wildcats saw their offense increase 130.0 yards per game over the previous offensive system as Arizona reached three-straight bowl games. During his final season in Tucson, Arizona’s offense moved from No. 10 to No. 3 in passing nationally, ending the 2011 season averaging 370.8 yards per game.
Nichol began his coaching career as a student coach at his alma mater Texas Tech following his playing career as a wide receiver. He followed that with a year at Cisco (Texas) Junior College, three years back at Texas Tech as an offensive assistant, and a year at Baylor (2006) as a staff assistant.
Nichol earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise sports sciences from Texas Tech in 1999 and followed with a master’s in interdisciplinary studies from the same institution three years later.
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Nichol graduated from Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas (Texas) before enrolling at Texas Tech.
NICHOL’S COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Inside Receivers)
2017-19: Washington State (Inside Receivers)
2016: Washington State (Outside Receivers)
2015: East Carolina (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
2012-14: East Carolina (Outside Receivers)
2008-11: Arizona (Wide Receivers)
2007: Arizona (Offensive Graduate Assistant)
2006: Baylor (Offensive Graduate Assistant)
2003-05: Texas Tech (Offensive Graduate Assistant)
2002: Cisco Junior College (Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers)
2000-01: Texas Tech (Student Assistant Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers Coach)
THE STEVE SPURRIER JR. FILE
Position: Assistant Coach (Outside Receivers)
Hometown: Durham, N.C.
Education: Duke, 1994 (Bachelor’s); Florida, 1996 (Master’s)
Children: Luke, Gavin, Emmaline, Nolan, Palmer, Hayden, McKinley
Birthday: Sept. 26, 1971
SPURRIER JR. ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“I’m ecstatic to be back in the SEC and a part of Mississippi State’s tradition. I’m honored to continue to coach with Coach Leach and this outstanding staff. I’m really impressed with the group of receivers on this team and can’t wait to recruit the great state of Mississippi.”
SPURRIER JR.’S BIO
Spurrier Jr. joins head coach Mike Leach in Starkville after two seasons together at Washington State.
During his two seasons in Pullman, Spurrier Jr.’s group helped the Cougars boast the top passing attack and nation’s leading passer each year. In 2019, Easop Winston Jr. led the team and tied for second in the Pac-12 in touchdown receptions. He also finished second on the team in receptions with 85, just one short of running back Max Borghi, and second on the squad in receiving yards with 970.
Spurrier Jr. saw his 2018 outside receivers unit combine for 23 touchdowns while four players caught 26-plus passes including a pair of receivers who each caught more than 60 passes for the nation’s top passing offense. Three outside receivers posted multiple 100-yard games in Tay Martin and Winston Jr. who each also caught eight touchdowns. Meanwhile, Dezmon Patmon finished eighth in the Pac-12 with 816 receiving yards to go along with his five touchdown receptions.
Spurrier Jr. joined Washington State’s staff after spending the 2017 season as the assistant head coach/ quarterbacks at Western Kentucky. Spurrier Jr. helped develop Mike White into the Hilltoppers’ first Senior Bowl participant at quarterback and just the second quarterback in school history to post multiple seasons of 4,000 or more passing yards. WKU reached the 2017 Autonation Cure Bowl as White’s 4,177 passing yards were fourth nationally while his 368 completions led the nation.
Spurrier Jr.’s collegiate coaching career has included 17 postseason bowl games, including the Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl, as well as five conference championships (three SEC and two Big 12) and two national championships (Oklahoma, 2000; Florida, 1996).
Spurrier Jr. spent the 2016 season at Oklahoma in an off-field role as a recruiting and offensive specialist, particularly with offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
Prior to his time in Norman, Spurrier Jr. served on his father’s staff at South Carolina for 11 seasons as the Gamecocks’ wide receivers coach. He added responsibilities of passing game coordinator in 2009, recruiting coordinator in 2011 and co-offensive coordinator in 2012. During his time in Columbia, the Gamecocks went to nine bowl games and his receivers featured future NFL stars Sidney Rice, Alshon Jeffery and Kenny McKinley.
Under Spurrier Jr., Jeffery developed into one of South Carolina’s all-time greatest receivers, setting school records for career receiving yards (3,042) and 100-yard receiving games (12), and tying the school
record for touchdown catches with 23 in 2011. Jeffery’s All-America sophomore season (2010) earned him a spot as a Biletnikoff finalist as he tallied a single-season school record 1,517 yards.
Spurrier was also invested in the development of Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, a fourth round draft pick in 2016. During Cooper’s sophomore season (2014), he set the school’s single-game receiving yards record with 233 and was named the 2014 Independence Bowl MVP for a nine catch, 170-yard performance against Miami.
The South Carolina record book is filled with receivers coached by Spurrier Jr. On top of Jeffery and Cooper, McKinley became South Carolina’s all-time leader in receptions (207) and receiving yards in 2008 before Jeffery broke his yardage record three seasons later.
Before joining his father at South Carolina, Spurrier Jr. spent one season at Arizona (2004) under head coach Mike Stoops, two seasons as wide receivers coach in the NFL with the Washington Redskins (2002-03) and was a part of Bob Stoops’ rebuilding project at Oklahoma (1999-2001), culminating with a perfect 13-0 record and national championship in 2000. He also worked alongside Leach during the 1999 season at Oklahoma.
A native of Palo Alto, California, Spurrier Jr. played collegiately at Duke where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1994. While working as a graduate assistant at Florida, Spurrier Jr. added his master’s in 1996.
Spurrier Jr. and his wife, the former Melissa Beauchamp, are the parents of triplets, Luke, Gavin and Emmaline; Nolan; twins, Palmer and Hayden, and McKinley.
SPURRIER JR.’S COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Outside Receivers)
2018-19: Washington State (Outside Receivers)
2017: Western Kentucky (Assistant Head Coach/Quarterbacks)
2016: Oklahoma (Recruiting and Offensive Specialist)
2012-15: South Carolina (Co-Off Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator/Passing Game Coordinator/WR)
2011: South Carolina (Recruiting Coordinator/Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers)
2009-10: South Carolina (Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers)
2005-08: South Carolina (Wide Receivers)
2004: Arizona (Staff Assistant)
2002-03: Washington Redskins (Wide Receivers)
1999-2001: Oklahoma (Wide Receivers)
1994-98: Florida (Graduate Assistant)
THE TONY HUGHES FILE
Position: Associate Head Coach (Nickelbacks)
Hometown: Forest, Miss.
Education: Southern Miss, 1980 (B.S., Sociology; Certificate of Education, Social Studies, 1985)
Children: Jamison, Jay
Birthdate: May 22, 1959
HUGHES ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“I am grateful for the opportunity to once again be coaching at Mississippi State. Coach Leach has assembled an outstanding staff, and I look forward to helping our program reach its potential in any way I can.”
Hughes, a veteran coach and heralded recruiter with three decades of experience in his home state of Mississippi, returned to Starkville on December 12, 2018, for his second stint. He coached the Bulldogs’ tight ends unit during the 2019 season and held the role of associate head coach.
Hughes makes a return to the defensive side of the ball in 2020 and will serve as associate head coach and nickelbacks coach.
Hughes spent seven seasons from 2009-15 with the Bulldogs coaching safeties and as recruiting coordinator. He also served as assistant head coach for three of those seasons beginning in the spring of 2013.
Prior to Hughes’ return to Starkville, the longtime Mississippian spent the previous two-plus seasons in Jackson, Mississippi, as head coach at Jackson State University.
Hughes has a reputation as being one of the top recruiters in college football on an annual basis. He served a pivotal role in helping State land 22 signees for the 2020 class during the early signing period last December. Among the 22 early signees, 11 are top-30 prospects from Mississippi.
In 2015, 247Sports.com tabbed him as one of America’s top 10 recruiters after the Bulldogs hauled in one of the nation’s top-16 classes.
According to Rivals.com, the 22 National Letters of Intent MSU received on National Signing Day in 2015 made up the Bulldogs’ best class since 2003. MSU hauled in five of Mississippi’s top six players. Fifteen of the Bulldogs’ signees hailed from the state of Mississippi.
A teacher and mentor to his student-athletes, Hughes has excelled at identifying players in the state of Mississippi that leave MSU as five-star NFL prospects.
During his seven seasons at MSU, Hughes recruited and helped tutor some of the program’s most storied players turned NFL stars including 2012 first-round draft pick defensive tackle Fletcher Cox – an eventual Super Bowl Champion and three-time Pro Bowl selection – as well as second-round draft selections defensive end Chris Jones and 2017 Pro Bowl defensive back Darius Slay, along with 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks and first-team All-American Benardrick McKinney. McKinney was once a two-star high school quarterback in Tunica, Mississippi, before being drafted by the Houston Texans in 2015. Hughes also recruited Gabe Jackson, one of the elite offensive linemen in MSU history from 2010-13 and now starting right guard for the Oakland Raiders.
With Hughes on the coaching staff, the Bulldogs had unprecedented success in 2014 when they claimed 10 regular-season wins for the first time in school history and reached their first Orange Bowl since 1941. It was a season of firsts for the program, which spent five consecutive weeks atop the polls and closed the year with its highest Associated Press poll finish since 1940 at No. 11.
State’s defense was dominant during the historic 2014 season, producing the top ranked red-zone defense and ninth-ranked scoring defense in the country. Following that season, two of Hughes’ safeties signed NFL free agent contracts, including his son, Jay, who was a team captain.
In 2013, Hughes’ safeties unit helped the Bulldogs rank among the SEC’s top five in a number of categories, including fourth in total defense (349.3 yards per game) and fifth in passing defense (205.2 yards per game). MSU also held its final three opponents to just 11.3 points per game.
Hughes first joined the Bulldogs in 2009 after spending one season at Southern Miss, where he coached the secondary. Before that, he coached for three seasons at Ole Miss. Named one of the top 25 college football recruiters in the nation by Rivals.com in the spring of 2006, Hughes’ first two years were spent tutoring the defensive backs with his final season in Oxford spent working with the tight ends.
Prior to a two-season tenure at Louisiana Tech, Hughes spent the previous 10 years on the coaching staff at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi, where he served as the defensive coordinator for one year and the secondary coach during his first nine seasons. He coached eight players who later went on to the NFL, including former MSU standout Fred Smoot.
Before working at Hinds, Hughes’ first college stop as a full-time collegiate coach was a two-year stay at West Alabama, where he was the secondary coach in 1992 and 1993. Hughes coached for seven years in the Mississippi high school ranks, serving as the offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Hattiesburg High School from 1988-1991. Hughes also spent two seasons as the defensive secondary coach and boys track coach at South Natchez High School in 1986 and 1987. His first high school coaching job came at Philadelphia High School in 1985.
After serving in the United States Marine Corps from 1981-84 and receiving an honorable discharge, he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Southern Miss in 1984, working with the defensive backs.
Hughes, who played football and ran track at Forest High School (1974-76) and played defensive back at St. Paul’s College (1976-77), was a defensive back for Southern Miss in 1977 and 1978. He earned his bachelor of arts’ degree in sociology from there in 1980. He is an active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, serving as a member of the Mississippi FCA State Board of Directors in 1999, president of the Mississippi FCA Coaches Council in 1998 and vice-president of the Mississippi FCA Coaches Council in 1997.
Hughes is married to the former Marion McCaleb of Meridian, Mississippi, and the couple has two sons, Jamison and Jay.
HUGHES’ COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Associate Head Coach/Nickelbacks)
2019: Mississippi State (Associate Head Coach/Tight Ends)
2016-18: Jackson State (Head Coach)
2009-15: Mississippi State (Assistant Head Coach/Safeties/Recruiting Coordinator)
2008: Southern Miss (Secondary)
2007: Ole Miss (Tight Ends)
2005-06: Ole Miss (Defensive Backs)
2004: Louisiana Tech (Outside Linebackers)
2003: Louisiana Tech (Defensive Backs)
2002: Hinds Community College (Defensive Coordinator)
1994-2001: Hinds Community College (Secondary)
1992-93: West Alabama (Secondary)
1988-91: Hattiesburg High (Offensive Coordinator)
1986-87: South Natchez (Secondary)
1985: Philadelphia (Miss.) High School
THE MATT BROCK FILE
Position: Assistant Coach (Special Teams/Outside Linebackers)
Hometown: Holton, Kan.
Education: Baker University, 2011 (B.S., Physical Education)
Birthdate: Oct. 11, 1988
BROCK ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“The opportunity to be a part of this staff and join the Mississippi State athletic department is an honor for my family and me. This is a program and athletic department I’ve had tremendous respect for, and my family and I are excited to call Starkville home. I’m thrilled to get to know our team and get to work.”
Brock recently finished his second year at Washington State after joining Mike Leach’s coaching staff in January 2018, serving as the special teams coordinator while also coaching the outside linebackers.
A selection to the AFCA’s prestigious 35 Under 35 Coaches Leadership Institute for 2020, Brock’s special teams unit was solid for the second straight season. Kicker Blake Mazza ranked fifth nationally and led the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage (95.2) and earned All-Pac-12 first team honors. Mazza, a Lou Groza Award finalist and midseason All-America second team selection by The Athletic, was 20-of-21 on field-goal attempts. He made his first 18 field goals to start the season, the longest consecutive field-goal streak in WSU history. Mazza, whose longest field goal of the year was a career-high 51 yards, led the Pac-12 in scoring with 115 points.
The Cougars ranked second in the Pac-12 in punt return average (16.2) and opponent kick return average (19.5). Additionally, freshman Travion Brown was named to the All-Pac-12 second team as an all-purpose/special teams player.
In his first season with the Cougars, Brock saw a trio of players earn All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors on special teams in punter Oscar Draguicevich III, kick returner Travell Harris and Kainoa Wilson as a special teams player.
The Cougars finished the 2018 season at 11th in the country and first in the Pac-12 in net punting (40.9), fifth in the country in kick return (27.1) and second in the Pac-12 in kickoff coverage.
Under Brock, Harris earned Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown against Eastern Washington, the punt return team returned a blocked punt for a touchdown at Oregon State, the kickoff coverage team scored a touchdown after recovering a fumble against Arizona and kicker Blake Mazza hit a 42-yard game-winning field goal in the final minute at Stanford.
Brock also mentored a pair of first-year starters at RUSH linebacker who combined for 15.0 tackles for loss including 8.5 sacks, helping the Cougars lead the Pac-12 in sacks and finish third in rushing defense.
Brock arrived in Pullman after two seasons (2016-17) at Bowling Green, where he served as special teams coordinator and worked with linebackers.
In 2017, he was a nominee for the Broyles Award, given to the top assistant coach in the country. His special teams units ranked among the nation’s top 20 in net punting average (4th), kickoff return defense (3rd) and punt return defense (20th).
In his first season at Bowling Green, Brock’s special teams unit led the nation in kickoff defense, ranked third in net punting average and finished 28th in punt return defense. Punter Joseph Davidson was a two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist. Davidson was a first team Academic All-American and fourth team All-American by Phil Steele in 2016.
Prior to Bowling Green, Brock spent three seasons at Texas Tech as a defensive quality control assistant. He also coached the defensive line in the Texas Bowl against LSU in 2015.
Brock was the defensive quality control coach in his first season at Tech in 2013 before being promoted to inside linebackers coach early in the 2014 season. He served in that capacity through the remainder of that season.
In 2014, Brock spent the majority of the season as the inside linebackers coach, developing All-Big 12 linebacker Sam Eguavoen. He assisted in developing the game plan each week and was directly involved in analysis and evaluation on game day.
During Brock’s first season with the Red Raiders in 2013, he coached Will Smith who garnered All-Big 12 honors along with being named Holiday Bowl Defensive Player of the Game. Smith was drafted in the seventh round by the Dallas Cowboys.
Brock arrived in Lubbock following two seasons at his alma mater Baker University (2011-12), where he served as a graduate assistant coach, oversaw the team’s linebackers and assisted defensive coordinator Jason Thoren in the coaches’ booth on game day.
Brock was a linebacker during his collegiate playing career at Baker. He tallied 277 career tackles and recorded seven interceptions while leading the league in total tackles and tackles per game in 2010.
A 2009 and 2010 all-conference selection, Brock was a two-time Academic All-American and earned several team most valuable player awards.
Brock graduated from Baker in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He and his wife, Alyssa have one daughter, Emma.
BROCK’S COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Special Teams Coordinator/Outside Linebackers)
2018-19: Washington State (Special Teams Coordinator/Outside Linebackers)
2016-17: Bowling Green (Special Teams Coordinator/Linebackers)
2014-15: Texas Tech (Inside Linebackers)
2013: Texas Tech (Defensive Quality Control)
2011-12: Baker University (Graduate Assistant)
THE DARCEL McBATH FILE
Position: Assistant Coach (Cornerbacks)
Hometown: Gainesville, Texas
Education: Texas Tech, 2008 (Bachelor’s, General Studies)
Children: Ansleigh, Duke
Birthdate: Oct. 28, 1985
McBATH ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“My family and I are fired up to be a part of the Mississippi State family. I am grateful for the opportunity to join Coach Leach and this program, and I look forward to getting to work with him, Coach Arnett and our entire staff. We have a talented, hard-working group of cornerbacks coming back in 2020, and I can’t wait to get to work with them.”
McBath recently spent three seasons at Washington State, including part of the 2019 season as interim co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach. He was elevated to cornerbacks coach in 2018 after serving in a defensive quality control role in 2017. The Gainesville, Texas native, played for Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2004-08, and spent five seasons in the NFL after being selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
McBath assumed co-interim defensive coordinator duties on Sept. 28, following the Utah game during the 2019 season. The Cougars finished the year fifth in the Pac-12 in takeaways (19) and tied for second in fumbles gained (9). His cornerbacks unit was led by George Hicks III, who broke up a team-high five passes and Marcus Strong, who recorded a pair of interceptions.
During his first season coaching cornerbacks in 2018, his unit combined for five takeaways highlighted by four interceptions. His group broke up 18 passes on the year and added 3.0 sacks. Senior Darrien Molton tied for eighth in the Pac-12 with nine pass breakups. McBath’s unit finished fourth in the Pac-12 in passing defense.
As a defensive quality control coach in 2017, McBath assisted with game prep, film breakdown and statistical tendencies.
Prior to his time in Pullman, McBath spent the 2016 season as a quality control intern at North Texas, working with defensive backs.
McBath played five seasons in the NFL before beginning his coaching career. A second-round selection by the Denver Broncos in the 2009 NFL Draft, McBath spent two seasons in Denver, one in Jacksonville and two in San Francisco. He played in 52 total games, recording 45 tackles with two interceptions. He played in Super Bowl XLVII as a member of the 49ers and made one tackle.
McBath was a four-year letterman at defensive back for Texas Tech, earning All-Big 12 first team honors in 2008 after leading the nation with seven interceptions. He graduated in 2008 with a degree in general studies.
McBath and his wife, Malorie, were married in 2013 and have two children, Ansleigh and Duke.
McBATH’S COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Cornerbacks)
2019: Washington State (Interim Co-Defensive Coordinator/Cornerbacks)
2018: Washington State (Cornerbacks)
2017: Washington State (Defensive Quality Control)
2016: North Texas (Defensive Quality Control)
THE JEFF PHELPS FILE
Position: Assistant Coach (Defensive Line)
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
Education: Ball State, 1998 (Bachelor’s)
Children: Carsen, Harlyn
Birthdate: Nov. 30, 1976
PHELPS ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“It’s truly an honor to be here at Mississippi State. I’m looking forward to representing the great state of Mississippi, a place where my mom was born. Hail State.”
Phelps joins the Bulldogs after three seasons at Washington State as defensive line coach. He is no stranger to the state of Mississippi as his mother grew up in West Point, less than 30 miles from Starkville.
This past season, Phelps mentored Lamonte McDougle who was the Cougars highest-graded defensive interior lineman according to Pro Football Focus. McDougle was especially strong in the run game, ranking fifth in the Pac-12 with an 80.6 run-defense grade.
Will Rodgers III led the Cougars in sacks with 4.0 and was second in tackles for loss with 6.0. He racked up 25 total pressures per PFF, which ranked sixth in the conference among defensive interior linemen. Rodgers tied for the league lead in QB hits by a defensive interior lineman with five on the season.
Phelps’ 2018 defensive front anchored the Cougar “Speed D” that led the Pac-12 with 38.0 sacks, the ninth-most in Washington State single-season history, and finished second in the league with 88.0 tackles for loss. The defensive line featured just one returning starter but combined for 34.0 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks, led by All-Pac-12 second-team selection Logan Tago, who set career highs of 10.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. The Cougars finished the season ranked third in the Pac-12 in rushing defense and No. 42 nationally in total defense.
In 2017, Phelps directed a defensive line that produced 45.5 tackles for loss and 20.0 sacks, helping the Cougar defense to rank in the top 20 in eight different categories. He also mentored Hercules Mata’afa to one of the finest seasons in program history as the redshirt-junior garnered Consensus All-America honors and was named the 2017 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year. Mata’afa registered 10.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss and was named the Associated Press Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Phelps arrived in Pullman after six seasons as the defensive line coach at the University of Minnesota. During his final season there, the Gophers’ defense ranked 12th in the nation in tackles for loss, 14th in rushing yards allowed and 22nd in sacks.
During his six seasons in Minneapolis, Phelps was a part of five bowl teams and coached four players who earned All-Big Ten honors, including 2013 Third Team All-American Ra’Shede Hagemen, who was a 2014 second-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons.
Phelps joined the Minnesota staff after spending five years coaching at Northern Illinois. From 2008-10, he coached the Huskies’ defensive line. In 2006-07, Phelps was responsible for coaching the defensive tackles.
Phelps coached defensive end Larry English at NIU. English went on to be named the Mid-American Conference’s Most Valuable Player twice and was the 2008 MAC Defensive Player of the Year. He was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, going to the San Diego Chargers.
Phelps began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ball State in 1999. He then spent three seasons at DePauw, where he coached the running backs for two seasons before going to the defensive side of the ball to coach linebackers. He then spent three seasons at Hillsdale (Mich.) College, where he coached the defensive line from 2003-05 before joining the staff at NIU.
Phelps was a Second Team All-MAC player at outside linebacker for Ball State following his senior season in 1997. He was also an Honorable Mention All-MAC selection as a junior. The Chicago native holds a bachelor’s degree from Ball State.
Phelps is a graduate of Crete-Monee High School, where he was a three-sport standout, earning seven letters – football (2), wrestling (2), track and field (3).
He and his wife Tyla have a son, Carsen, and a daughter, Harlyn.
PHELPS’ COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Defensive Line)
2017-19: Washington State (Defensive Line)
2011-16: Minnesota (Defensive Line)
2008-10: Northern Illinois (Defensive Line)
2006-07: Northern Illinois (Defensive Tackles)
2003-05: Hillsdale College (Defensive Line)
2000-02: Depauw (Linebackers/Running Backs)
1999: Ball State (Graduate Assistant)
THE JASON WASHINGTON FILE
Position: Assistant Coach (Safeties)
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Education: Texas State, 2002 (Bachelor’s) 2004 (Master’s)
Children: Jaxson, Jayla
Birthdate: Nov. 30, 1976
WASHINGTON ON JOINING COACH LEACH’S STAFF AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
“My family and I are excited to join Coach Leach, the staff and the Mississippi State family. I’m looking forward to helping build a strong culture within our program and competing against the best in the SEC. We are thrilled and can’t wait to get rolling in Starkville.”
Washington comes to Starkville after three seasons at Texas on Tom Herman’s staff as the Longhorns’ recruiting coordinator and coaches the cornerbacks. He coached under Herman at the University of Houston the two seasons prior to his time in Austin.
Washington has a reputation as an elite recruiter. He was named the Big 12’s top recruiting coach in 2018 by 247Sports.
Washington’s unit helped the Longhorns force 12 interceptions during the 2019 season, and cornerback D’Shawn Jamison led the team with three pickoffs.
In 2018, both of Washington’s cornerbacks earned All-Big 12 honors. Kris Boyd was first team All-Big 12 after totaling 67 tackles with 16 pass breakups, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. On the opposite side was fellow senior Davante Davis, who was named honorable mention All-Big 12 and recorded 42 tackles, eight pass breakups, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
In 2017, Washington’s cornerbacks had a knack for the big play, as the Longhorns returned five interceptions for scores. Boyd led the team with 15 pass breakups and also had two interceptions. Davis and Holton Hill also had two interceptions apiece. Texas racked up 54 pass breakups on the season.
Throughout his career, Washington has coached 10 players who have reached the NFL.
While at Houston, Washington helped the defense to a national ranking of 14th during the 2016 regular season. The Cougars had five defensive touchdowns and allowed just 22.6 points per game. Cornerback Howard Wilson led the Cougars with five interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Houston’s defense totaled seven interceptions and 49 pass breakups.
On special teams, Houston punter Dane Roy averaged 40.7 yards per punt and downed 19-of-55 inside the 20-yard line. The Cougars punt return defense ranked fourth nationally allowing just 1.8 yards per return on 10 attempts. Kick returner D’Eriq King averaged more than 25 yards per return and had a 99-yard return for a touchdown.
In his first season at Houston, Washington oversaw arguably the best starting cornerback tandem in The American and a drastic special teams improvement. Under his leadership, William Jackson III led the nation in PBUs (23) and passed defended (28). Jackson set Houston single-game (7) and season records in passes broken up despite missing the Memphis game with an injury. Wilson was second on the team with seven pass breakups as Houston ranked fourth nationally with 87 passes defended and seventh with 21 interceptions. The duo of Wilson and Jackson combined for four defensive touchdowns in 2015.
The Cougars’ special teams unit saw much improvement under Washington in his first season. The kickoff return unit improved from 125th to 28th nationally, kickoff return defense from 75th to 45th, punt return from 99th to 41st and punt return defense from 22nd to fourth. Wilson ranked 19th nationally with an average kickoff return of 26.6 yards, including two touchdowns. Demarcus Ayers was 27th nationally with a punt return average of 11.3 yards to earn first team honors from The American.
Washington arrived in Houston after four seasons at nearby Texas State, his second stint in San Marcos, following a four-year stop at Rice. Washington’s secondary unit helped the Bobcats rank second in the Sun Belt in 2014 with 13 interceptions. Sophomore Germond Williams ranked 17th nationally with four interceptions in just nine games. Craig Mager, who was selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the San Diego Charges, was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game and received All-Sun Belt honors under Washington. Junior David Mims also earned All-SBC honors with five interceptions.
In 2013, Mager was named All-Sun Belt Conference after ranking among league leaders with nine passes defended. Cornerback Darryl Morris was named second team All-WAC in 2012, ranking among WAC leaders with four interceptions and nine passes defended. Washington also coached the punt return unit at Texas State. The Bobcats ranked seventh nationally in 2013 and led the conference in punt returns after Andy Erickson returned 20 punts for 284 yards. Erickson ranked second nationally averaging 16.7 yards per punt return in 2012.
Washington rejoined Texas State in 2011 after spending four years at Rice where he coached five All-Conference USA defensive backs. The Owls’ best season came in 2008 when Rice went 10-3, their best record since the 1950s.
Before his four years at Rice, Washington spent the previous three seasons at Texas State. During his third season of his first stint with the Bobcats, Washington produced the Southland Conference leader in interceptions, Walter Musgrove. Musgrove was a two-time All-Southland Conference pick, SLC Student-Athlete of the Year, National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete and a FCS ADA Academic All-Star. Washington also coached two other All-SLC defensive backs in each of his first two seasons in San Marcos.
Washington spent a week during the 2009 season with the Minnesota Vikings as part of the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship program that has produced NFL head coaches such as Mike Tomlin, Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith.
A native of San Antonio, Washington earned a bachelor’s degree in 2002 and a master’s degree in sport administration in 2004 from Texas State. He was a four-year letterman for the Bobcats in football and baseball. He started as a defensive back in football and was a center fielder on the baseball team.
Washington and his wife Lacey have one son, Jaxson and one daughter, Jayla.
WASHINGTON’S COACHING CAREER
2020-present: Mississippi State (Safeties)
2017-19: Texas (Recruiting Coordinator/Cornerbacks)
2015-16: Houston (Special Teams Coordinator/Cornerbacks)
2014: Texas State (Secondary)
2011-13: Texas State (Cornerbacks)
2007-10: Rice (Cornerbacks)
2004-06: Texas State (Cornerbacks)